CFL response to Nardello investigation

The Coalition for Fair Labor has released the following statement with regard to the findings of the Nardello & Co investigation.

NYU Coalition for Fair Labor:

Comments on the Release of the Nardello Report

April 16, 2015

Over the course of the last decade, a string of investigative reports (by Human Rights Watch, The Guardian, Amnesty International, New York Times, Gulf Labor Coalition) have uncovered labor abuse on UAE construction sites, some of these involving violations of NYUAD’s Statement of Labor Values. We applauded Tamkeen/NYUAD’s decision to hire Nardello to look into the allegations, and we note that the firm’s report has largely corroborated the substance, and most of the details, of the allegations.

The Coalition played an important role in the creation of the Statement of Labor Values, but our recommendations for selecting an independent labor monitor to implement these recommendations were ignored. Indeed, we were quite wary of the choice of Mott MacDonald to oversee the NYUAD compliance process. The report makes it abundantly clear that the firm failed to do an adequate job, and that the process, as a whole, was poorly designed. Workers were not protected, and in many cases, they suffered financial loss and worse. It is particularly disturbing to learn from the Nardello report that, under Mott’s watch, up to 35% of the workers engaged in construction of the NYUAD campus were exempted from compliance provisions.

President Sexton has issued a statement, acknowledging NYU’s responsibility for the lack of compliance protections in the case for some 10 000 workers. He has promised that the administration will take seriously the recommendations outlined in Nardello report. How will this promise be realized?  How will the recommendations be implemented?

The Nardello Report’s findings make clear that good intentions about fair labor values and ad hoc meetings behind closed doors have failed to protect workers. We need more than statements on websites on one hand, and the hiring of inappropriate labor compliance monitors on the other. The recommendations offered by the Report should be followed through in a truly transparent fashion, in the spirit of full disclosure and dialogue with NYU students and faculty.

In light of the Nardello Report, we make the following demands:

  1. A) The deported workers, and others denied back pay for several months, deserve restitution for their abusive treatment, deportation and loss of income. All workers who incurred recruitment debt should be compensated for the $1000-$3000 amounts found in the Report. Further, those who suffered from wage depression in the UAE labor market during the period of construction should also be compensated. A study by Columbia University and NYU economists found a 25 percent wage depression in this period.[*]
  1. B) The Coalition has called for an independent monitor to be appointed in place of Mott, to oversee labor standards among NYUAD’s large operational workforce. We proposed the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) as the appropriate choice. However, our recommendation was ignored, and the process of selecting a monitor has not been made public to the university community. Will the terms of reference for the monitor be made available to faculty and students in Abu Dhabi and New York? Will the Code of Conduct (which governs the operational workforce including domestic workers) be released, as student groups and the Coalition for Fair Labor have demanded? What, if anything, will have changed with the monitoring process in light of the Nardello Report?


  1. C) NYUAD’s responsibilities on Saadiyat Island do not end now that construction of its campus is complete, and the Nardello report has been issued. As the region’s premier research institution, NYU has an obligation to devise meaningful solutions to the problems of systematic migrant labor abuse that will continue to plague the workforce employed on Saadiyat sites all around NYUAD in the years to come. Moreover, as a Global Network University, NYU must take the lead in research and teaching on the ethics of global higher education. We continue to encourage the administration to support cross-campus research on the history and current context of migration, labor and globalization in Abu Dhabi and across its Global Network University sites.

[*] See:



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